By Jim Sprinkles
One only needs to reflect on current events to become anxious and fearful. Riots in the streets, disregard for authority, discord and lack of leadership in our nation’s capital, terrorist killing innocent citizens, not to mention physical maladies, marriage discord and disobedient children. Is it any wonder that depression and a downcast spirit has approached nearly epidemic proportion in our society? Unfortunately, Christians seem to be just as heavily impacted as the world at large. For the Biblical Counselor, the question to be answered is do we have the solution to restore peace and joy to these numerous troubled souls that join us in worship each week?
With the loss of God’s influence in our secular society, the psychological industry has risen to be very influential as the place to go to seek help and find answers. Man is no longer seen as a physical and spiritual being, but only as physical. This results in a man-centered attempt to provide a solution to the issues of life. As the church has come to accept the world’s psychological solutions, she offers psychology’s answers to address these downcast and depressed individuals. This situation presents the Biblical Counselor with the need to think through their position on this matter. Does God offer a solution to this growing dilemma within the local church? What answer can we offer the downcast and depressed individual?
The first item of importance in bringing help to a person struggling with depression, is to address the potential physical aspects of the problem. Encourage the individual to seek medical evaluation to rule out any physiological genesis to their depression. With this aspect having been addressed, we can now look to the spiritual being as the source of the behavior. With statistics indicating the only 3% to 5% of those suffering with depression has a physical source, the chances are that those coming to you for help can find relief from the spiritual answers God provides.
Dealing with a downcast spirit is not just a late 20th century issue that has carried over into 21st century. There are biblical examples as far back as Cain and Able. There are many Psalm we could look at, but I have chosen Psalm 42 – 43 to explore. Many scholars believe these two passages were at one time together as one. The writer expresses his state of depression that seems to have resulted from being unable to worship in Jerusalem. His downcast spirit led him to be unable to find God even though his soul pants for God. His days seem filled with tears and sadness. He asks the question, why is his soul in such despair? He answers his question, and thus finds hope and comfort by recalling all God had done. This change in his thinking led him to be able to praise God again.
Puritan author, William Bridge, offered the troubled Christian of the 17th century biblical solutions to their depression. Those solutions are just as viable today as they were then. His thirteen sermons are contained in a book titled, “A Lifting Up for the Downcast” published by The Banner of Truth Trust.
I found this volume to provide additional insights to help present day suffers of spiritual depression to begin the process of thought change that brings a stop to the downward spiral they live with, and to begin to lift up their eyes to the hills from where their help will come. Instead of daily reliving the gloom that seems to imprison one’s life, their return to recalling God’s activity in days long past, seeing God’s handy work, remembering His love and mercy for them will rejuvenate one’s faith and hope in God. A vibrant, growing faith in God will in time set the person free of the suffering from a downcast spirit.